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Force Field. No, Really 434

tqft points out news of "a working force field, using plasma. Now to scale the sucker up." Here's the Brookhaven press release. I can think of so many uses for this.
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Force Field. No, Really

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  • by artemis67 ( 93453 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:46AM (#6149037)
    Finally, a solution to the "Dad, he keeps touching me!" dilemma.
  • by Hogwash McFly ( 678207 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:47AM (#6149038)
    There was a guy down the street from me who was in a force field. Can't remember his name but he had a black and white striped shirt, white face paint and he didn't speak that much.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:47AM (#6149039)
    are some borg implants so I can walk through the force field unaffected.
  • Uses? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Surak ( 18578 ) * <surak AT mailblocks DOT com> on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:47AM (#6149043) Homepage Journal
    I can think of so many uses for this.

    Like keeping PHBs out of the server room? ;)
    • Re:Uses? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Smallphish ( 320591 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:54AM (#6149094)
      Just what I need in my server room. Another heat source at 15,000 Kelvin. . .
      • by lingqi ( 577227 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:09AM (#6149237) Journal
        i know you are trying to be funny, but realistically, the amount of energy a high-temperature "thing" contains can be a lot less than you think.

        for example, some ions trapped by the earth's magnetic field goes up to some 14 MILLION kelvins (notice it's hotter than anywhere on, around, or inside the sun). However, as there are maybe one or two such high-temperature particles per cubic centimeter, you will still freeze to death standing (erm, floating) in the middle of it.

        just a pedantic monday morning, i guess. I'll stop now.
  • by Neophytus ( 642863 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:47AM (#6149044)
    or is all its blocking at the moment air? then again 14k kelvin might keep us out.
    • Yes...

      But if it's blocking against atmospheric pressure (not quite sure on that one) then it's an impressive feat...

      • Not really much pressure though.

        I think it's mostly blocking stray molecules of air that get in from leaks until the leaks can be patched.
      • by EvilTwinSkippy ( 112490 ) <[yoda] [at] []> on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:43AM (#6149499) Homepage Journal
        It's not really blocking "pressure" it's making it worth every molecule's while to go the other way. Think of it like a Rent-A-Cop with a velvet rope. Neither the velvet rope nor the Rent-A-Cop would stop a raging mob of 100 people walking straight into it.

        But, the Rent-A-Cop and his/her rope will "kindly" deflect any stray party goers that encounter it. Since you are repelling individual particles at a time, the physics are much different.

      • Even if it is not yet blocking against atmospheric pressures, it is a design that one would hope to see some development work done on.

        If it can be used to block a 1 atmosphere pressure (or even above) it would solve a whole bucket load of problems.
      • If it's an enclosed plasma that can block anything then it's pretty darn impressive, lets be honest. ;) The atmospheric pressure thing will depend on the exact physical set up though. But having worked with vacuum equipment I'd estimate that with vacuum on one side and air leaking in on the other you're really talking about how much air is leaking into the gap. i.e.:

        leak in system plasma wall
        | |
        | enclosed |
        atmos area at | vacuum
        | atmos - x |
        | |

        Obviously wi
  • by Tukz ( 664339 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:48AM (#6149048) Journal
    Finally a decent way to protect your *nix server
    from physical contact!


  • Blast... (Score:5, Funny)

    by foxtrot ( 14140 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:48AM (#6149053)
    I asked the guy how he did it, but he won't tell me.

    Hasn't anyone explained to him the wonders of open force?

  • Torps (Score:2, Funny)

    by izto ( 56957 )
    Yes, but can it stop plasma torps? what about phasers?? :-)
    • Re:Torps (Score:2, Informative)

      That's girly stuff. What I want to know is will it let me tool around inside a red giant looking for a jump point. That's a force field!

      A reference [] for the confused.

  • by fredrikj ( 629833 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:50AM (#6149063) Homepage
    Just read here []
  • Good people, I have copied the Brookhave Press Release below, in case of Slashdotting of the server, of just in case you with to save our goverment a few nickels in bandwidth cost, nickels that might be better used to spread freedom, and democracy throughout the world.

    Brookhaven Lab and Argonne Lab Scientists Invent a Plasma Valve

    UPTON, NY â" Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory have received U.S. patent number 6,528,94

    • At 15,000 degrees Celsius (27,032 degrees Fahrenheit), the plasma valve is about 50 times hotter than room temperature when measured in degrees Kelvin.

      I want to say something about this, but the sentence makes my brain hurt, and not in a good way.

      So... converting temperatures to Kelvin makes them lower? It may be that I'm too far removed from my math and science classes, but... well, come to think of it, I never learned it that way.

      Sheesh, they didn't even say "in Kelvins." "Degrees Kelvin" indee
  • Spam? (Score:5, Funny)

    by 955301 ( 209856 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:52AM (#6149082) Journal
    They use the word plasma so many times in the last sentence of the first link, that for some strange reason (closely related to my sense of humor, I'm sure), I'm reminded of Monty Python and Spam:

    A much faster, more complex version of a previously introduced "spam window" (see New Scientist, 12 April 2003), the spam valve is the latest example of novel uses of spam for particle-beam applications; other recent ones include spam acceleration of antimatter (Update 634), a spam lens (Update 508), and spam deflection of high-energy beams (Update 540).

  • The article sucks. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mac Degger ( 576336 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:01AM (#6149177) Journal
    I love the idea, and the science around it, but the article sucks! No pics, diagrams or any actual detail on the way the thing works. I'm sick of this kind of 'it works because of herbs!' reporting; it's way too simple for any inquiring mind and because of that it's non-informative.

    A shame, 'cause I'd be interested in the practical implementation of this valve system. And I want pretty movies and/or pictures, of course :)
  • Plasma jargon (Score:4, Informative)

    by buckhead_buddy ( 186384 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:04AM (#6149198)
    To keep all of the vampires and blood drive workers* from getting too anxious, the plasma this article refers to is not a component of blood (medical jargon). This other plasma (physics jargon) is matter that has been charged with so much energy it begins exhibiting characteristics of a liquid rather than a gas.

    *After seeing some of the workers running our corporate guilt-a-thon, I suspect this may be redundant.
  • by 1stflight ( 48795 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:05AM (#6149207)
    Since this does a great job at separating air, and a vacuum, this has great applications in space.
    Think launch bays that really can be opened up to have a shuttle pass though, and leave the air inside the bay intact.
    Yes, this idea has a lot of promise.
  • by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:06AM (#6149213)
    1) It's a "plasma valve". Not a force (ie magnetic or something ethereal), the magnetic "force" confines the plasma.

    2) The plasma valve is INSIDE a copper container.

    If you think this is a "force field" then you might also be interested in the "ray gun" in your television tube.

    An interesting story nonetheless, spoiled only by the fatuous ignorance of the submitter and editor.

    • by Idarubicin ( 579475 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:44AM (#6149516) Journal
      It's a "plasma valve". Not a force...

      Erm. I dunno. For a lot of laypeople, a valve with no 'solid' parts fits the definition of a 'force field'.

      (Note: I am embarrassed to use the following example.) Take the brig on Star Trek: TNG era vessels. There is a ring of emitters surrounding the door opening. These emitters are presumably responsible for maintaining an impenetrable field in the doorway. That 'force field' seems to be at least loosely similar (in form and stated goals) to the 'plasma valve' described--it's just larger.

      Oh, and the plasma valve would take your finger off if you touched it. Oh well. This is real life that we're stuck with, after all.

    • I think the sci-fi "force field" metaphor is pretty justified in this case and isn't even stretched too far beyond its specs. This thing has vacuum on one side, air on the other and no solid object in between. This is pretty damn cool.
  • by jdfox ( 74524 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:09AM (#6149235)
    Because I brought my DINOSAUR! [] Who EATS force field dogs!

  • I can think of so many uses for this.

    I can think of one user for this. Making a space that cannot be crossed. Sorta like a wall really only has one purpose.

    Just playinwitcha, this is a cool concept.

    • Walls have many purposes.

      1) Organizing space
      2) Preventing access
      3) Posters/calendars
      4) Wall-mounted displays
      5) An excuse to use Windows
      6) Wacky martial-art stunts
      7) Climate control
      8) Holding up ceilings
      9) Blocking noise
      10) Paint retention
    • Re:Hehehe what?? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by chainsaw1 ( 89967 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @10:04AM (#6149695)
      Except this wall has a very small, negligable mass.

      Thus, you could also make a balloon with extra lifting capasity just by vacuuming out the inside of a field. It could also fly closer to space than any other balloon, since it has a vacuume(essentially 0 density).

      Or you could have containment for mass-sensitive matter (antimatter, etc.)

      How about a see-through wall with zero heat transfer by contact?

      How about a wall that cannot melt, because there is nothing there to melt? We may finally have something we can melt diamond/carbon in

      Sometimes you have to think outside the ridgid plasma cube
  • by arvindn ( 542080 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:13AM (#6149265) Homepage Journal
    the plasma reaches a temperature of 15,000 degrees Kelvin

    First, its degrees only when it is Fahrenheit or Centigrade, which are not absolute units. Second, its Kelvins, damn it! (at least when it is more than 1K). People have no problem with Joules, Newtons, Pascals etc which are all people's names, why is Kelvins so different??

    [I haven't done any physics after high school, so if I'm wrong correct me.]

    • I did a physics masters and I never heard anyone declare that you can't say "degrees Kelvin". In fact, I must have said it myself quite a few times. Both ways of saying it are acceptable as far as I'm aware.

    • you sure it's not "degrees Kelvin"?

      i don't know about you, but when someone asks me my height and weight i always say "130 weight units pound" and "70 height units inch".
    • The units are the same as the units in Kelvin in fact, the only difference is the zero point. Kelvin is zeroed at absolute zero, centigrade at water's freezing point under standard pressure. That doesn't mean that the units are any different. They are both an absolute scale and not a relitive one.
  • by brunes69 ( 86786 ) <slashdot.keirstead@org> on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:14AM (#6149273) Homepage

    This thing is for use in sci-tech research only, for creating air tight vacums. It can't be used to protect / encase eevryday objects. For example, I quote:

    At 15,000 degrees Celsius (27,032 degrees Fahrenheit), the plasma valve is about 50 times hotter than room temperature when measured in degrees Kelvin. This intense heat makes the ionized atoms and molecules move around and collide with air molecules so rapidly that the ions block any air molecules that might pass through the plasma valve.

    In short, don't expect this force field to be in use at your neighborhood brig / jail anytime soon :) A really cool advancement though.

  • my stupid idea (Score:2, Interesting)

    If you could make a huge-scale forcefield that wouldn't repel matter but allow it to rest on it you could make ... TRANSPARENT AIRCRAFT!

    The military would probably be interested, but I'm more into the idea of see-through 747s- just think of the view!

    I suppose you'd still have to have most of the aircraft solid, unless force fields can act as wings etc for aerodynamic purposes (IANAP), but you'd still end up with the equivalent of glass-bottomed boats, except far cooler.

  • SCI FI wonderland (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Darkseer ( 63318 )
    Brookhaven National Labs is awsome man. I interned there one summer and forcefields are the least of their toys. The place is out in the middle of Long Island NY and looks almost totally harmless from the outside. Inside they have all the latest and greatest science tools, everything from nuclear reactors to partical accelators. 10 Years ago they figured out how to do 3D medical imaging like you see in science fiction movies and methods to do surgury with radiation beams. If your ever out that way sign up f
  • by BobRooney ( 602821 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:38AM (#6149459) Homepage
    I suppose next we'll be hearing about a new sort of sci-fi device called a "laser". Perhaps this "laser" can be used with the "force field" to sculpt pictures of world leaders onto the face of the moon...
    • Re:What's next? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Imperator ( 17614 )
      Who would have thought that the mass production of lasers would lead to... 12-year old boys giggling in a movie theater and pissing everyone else off?
  • Escaping the atmosphere. If the force-field can be generated without consuming too much power, then you can create a "virtual balloon" above your ship, and get the first 20 miles or so for nothing. Then you fire up the regular rockets.

    Of course, since they are talking about temperaturs of 70,000K it doesn't sound like this will be competitive with rocket boosters anytime soon.

    • get the first 20 miles or so for nothing.

      I'm no rocket scientist.... but I would have thought that gravity too would require some sort of propulsion to overcome - that is, the first 20 miles wouldn't be exactly "free".
  • This plasma valve blocks air particles from moving across (and, in this case, into a vacum chamber).

    It wouldn't stop a bullet or other moving objects or energy beams, so it's not your next spaceship shielf (let alone, it blocks air particles).

    Heck, at 15,000 celcius, I wouldn't use it as a patio door screen mesh replacement either (mind you, it would make a good mosquito zapper, but your dog would fry through it as well).

    I wonder, really, what this could be used for, other than very specific lab stuff.
  • by EvilTwinSkippy ( 112490 ) <[yoda] [at] []> on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:47AM (#6149547) Homepage Journal
    Did anyone else in the process of reading this think "Gee, this sounds just like Maxwell's Demon."

    Maxwell's Demon is a physics problem the is the basis of quantum mechanics. Simply, suppose you had a tank of air that was divided in 2 by a tiny split, with a gate. At the gate is a "demon" who lets high energy particle in on side, and low-energy particles in the other.

    Theoretically, by expending no energy save that to open and close the gate (plus whatever overhead the Demon requires) you could thwart the laws of physics. Soon one side of the tank would be "cold" and the other "hot" even if they both started off at the same temperature.

  • Yeah but... (Score:5, Funny)

    by mikosullivan ( 320993 ) <miko.idocs@com> on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:51AM (#6149579)
    ... does it make that cool "Bzzzzt" sound when you walk into it?
  • I've read both articles, and understand the basic of the switch (which is very much like a plasma window [], only works a lot faster).
    But I'm having a hard time understanding how this valve would stop a leak. Since that seems to be the primary function of such a valve.

    Is it supposed to be placed "on top" of an existing mechanical valve, so that if that valve leaks the plasma one will jump in close it off ?

  • by aimless ( 311570 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @02:17PM (#6152507)
    And it IS Awesome!

    I worked on the pre-cursor to the plasma valve at BNL, the Vaunted "Plasma Window" (ooooh, ahhh)

    The thing really is incredible, and yes, I accepted the project because I read the description, and went..."Holy C*ap! That is just like the shuttle bay!" And it is, well...if the shuttle bay were ~4-6mm in diameter =)

    And about the 15K Kelvin thing, yes plasmas do get that hot, but lets get real here, the thing is tiny...I bet the lights above your head get just as hot in the middle of their plasmas.

    Anyway, the project I worked on was very robust and partially scaleable, just would require a boatload of power. It was very "loud" but not "noisy" as we could put very sensitive equipment right next to it and there would be no interference (you physics types should get this) and when you take a collimated beam of one case a green laser, it will shine clear through it with next to no loss, which is a huge improvement over any other method of separating Atmosphere from Vacuum.

    Mind you, this would be only the first stage in a series of differential pumping to get down to UHVacuum.

    Gratz to Ady, he is one helluv a guy!


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